Amy Foster HTML version

One day, as we trotted out of a large village into a shady bit of road, I saw on our left
hand a low, black cottage, with diamond panes in the windows, a creeper on the end
wall, a roof of shingle, and some roses climbing on the rickety trellis-work of the tiny
porch. Kennedy pulled up to a walk. A woman, in full sunlight, was throwing a dripping
blanket over a line stretched between two old ap- ple-trees. And as the bobtailed, long-
necked chestnut, trying to get his head, jerked the left hand, covered by a thick dogskin
glove, the doctor raised his voice over the hedge: "How's your child, Amy?"
I had the time to see her dull face, red, not with a mantling blush, but as if her flat
cheeks had been vigorously slapped, and to take in the squat figure, the scanty, dusty
brown hair drawn into a tight knot at the back of the head. She looked quite young. With
a distinct catch in her breath, her voice sounded low and timid.
"He's well, thank you."
We trotted again. "A young patient of yours," I said; and the doctor, flicking the chestnut
absently, muttered, "Her husband used to be."
"She seems a dull creature," I remarked listlessly.
"Precisely," said Kennedy. "She is very passive. It's enough to look at the red hands
hanging at the end of those short arms, at those slow, prom- inent brown eyes, to know
the inertness of her mind --an inertness that one would think made it everlastingly safe
from all the surprises of imagination. And yet which of us is safe? At any rate, such as
you see her, she had enough imagination to fall in love. She's the daughter of one Isaac
Foster, who from a small farmer has sunk into a shepherd; the beginning of his
misfortunes dating from his runaway marriage with the cook of his widowed father--a
well-to-do, apoplectic grazier, who passionately struck his name off his will, and had
been heard to utter threats against his life. But this old affair, scandalous enough to
serve as a motive for a Greek tragedy, arose from the similarity of their characters.
There are other tragedies, less scandalous and of a subtler poignancy, arising from
irreconcilable differences and from that fear of the Incomprehensible that hangs over all
our heads--over all our heads. . . ."
The tired chestnut dropped into a walk; and the rim of the sun, all red in a speckless
sky, touched familiarly the smooth top of a ploughed rise near the road as I had seen it
times innumerable touch the distant horizon of the sea. The uniform brownness of the
harrowed field glowed with a rosy tinge, as though the powdered clods had sweated out
in minute pearls of blood the toil of uncounted ploughmen. From the edge of a copse a
waggon with two horses was rolling gently along the ridge. Raised above our heads
upon the sky-line, it loomed up against the red sun, triumphantly big, enormous, like a
chariot of giants drawn by two slowstepping steeds of legendary proportions. And the
clumsy figure of the man plodding at the head of the leading horse projected itself on
the background of the Infinite with a heroic uncouthness. The end of his carter's whip
quivered high up in the blue. Kennedy discoursed.